Moshe's name appears nowhere throughout Parashat Tesaveh, somewhat in fulfillment of his request, "If You forgive their sin fine; otherwise, erase me from Your book which You have written." This request underscores the selfless commitment which the great shepherd of Israel demonstrated towards his flock. It was Moshe himself who coined the expression, "Let a thousand 'Moshe's die rather than the fingernail of even a single individual from Yisrael be injured."
This week we celebrate the holiday of Purim which also stresses the unwavering devotion of our leaders. We will read of Mordechai's impassioned plea that Esther approach the king uninvited, despite the fact that "...every man or woman who comes to the king unscheduled is put to death regardless of his religion, except for those for whom the king waves his golden scepter, who lives." Esther put her own life in danger and, with the Al-mighty's help, she succeeded in saving her people from annihilation.
However, we must remember, that just as Moshe, Mordechai and Esther led their followers and were prepared to sacrifice their lives for their people, so is each parent, each father and mother, the leaders of their families and must devote themselves entirely to their flock. The children rely on them, and it is their obligation to make sacrifices for the welfare of the children, for the sake of their education. Many parents choose to enroll their children in lower quality school systems, schools with less of a focus on Torah, for reasons of convenience, because the school is closer to the house and other such considerations.
These parents must weigh his decision very carefully. Are they not hurting their own children? Are they not turning away from the path established by the leaders of our nation throughout the generations who endured all types of difficulty for the sake of their people? The first responsibility of parents is to provide for their children the best possible education, an education of the highest Torah quality.
"YOU AND YOUR FAMILY"
More so than any other holiday, Purim is a festival for the children. They are dressed in costumes, they parade around with excitement, they are armed with their noise-makers ready to drown out the name of Haman, they carry the mishloah manot to different friends, they are the busiest ones on the day of Purim. And for good reason. They played a critical role in the miracle of Purim. They, too, were part of Haman's decree of annihilation. When the decree was issued, we are told, Mordechai assembled thousands of children, prayed with them for the annulment of the decree and studied Torah with them. The purity of their speech, and their words of Torah, ascended to the heavens and defeated the heavenly prosecutor. It was the children who carried the banner of, "They fulfilled and accepted," the banner of the unconditional acceptance of the Torah with extra fervor and zeal.
However, the question must be asked: why were they included in the decree to begin with? What was their sin?
The Gemara records, "Rabbi Shimon Bar Yohai's students asked him, 'Why was the decree issued against the Jews of that generation?'
"He answered, 'You tell me.'
"They responded, 'Because they took part in the feast of Ahashverosh.'
"He said to them, 'So only the Jews of Shushan should have been [decreed to be] killed. Why would the Jews of the other regions be killed?'
"They said, 'You tell us.'
"He answered, 'Because they bowed down to an image during the time of Nevuchadnessar.'" He continued to explain that since they prostrated themselves before the image only out of coercion, their repentance was effective in nullifying the decree. In any event, both reasons for the decree against the Jews did not apply to the children. The feast of Ahashverosh occurred nine years earlier, and the incident of the image took place during the time of Nevuchadnessar, dozens of years earlier. After Nevuchadnessar, ruled Evel Merodach. Then Belshassar ruled, after him Koresh, then Daryavesh, and only then came Ahashverosh. In fact, the majority of the people against whom the decree was issued were not yet born at the time when the Jews bowed down to the image!
The answer lies in a pasuk in the Megilah. Mordechai pressures Esther to endanger her life by appearing before the king without having been invited, a crime punishable by death under normal circumstances. Mordechai explained to Esther, "For if you are silent at this time, deliverance and salvation will surface for the Jews through some other means, and you and your family will be destroyed. And who knows if specifically for this moment you have reached royalty?"
What was Mordechai's point? How did this justify his insistence on her endangering her life by appearing before the king? Hazal explain (in "Targum Sheni") that Mordechai was telling Esther, do not think that you can escape the decree which was issued against the rest of the Jews. It was your ancestor, Shaul, who caused this entire crisis. For if he had fulfilled the command of the prophet, Shemuel, and destroyed all of Amalek, Haman would never have emerged. If Shaul would have killed Agag, the king of Amalek, when he was supposed to, Haman would never have been born and we would not be subject to his decrees. And who knows if you reached royalty only because the sins of your family have finally been repaid?
In this passage, a critical lesson is taught, a corner-stone of the operation of the world. Everybody has a job to fulfill, each soul has a destiny and purpose. Shaul, the first king of Benei Yisrael, was to eradicate evil from the world, to destroy Amalek. He fulfilled his task, only insufficiently. He allowed the Amalekite king to live, and Agag was not killed until the following day, by Shemuel. The night in between, Agag ensured the continuity of his wicked heritage which yielded fruits of evil for many generations to come, in the form of his descendant, Haman.
Shaul thus failed in his mission. But the critical point is that when somebody falls short of the complete fulfillment of his task, this is not the end. The responsibility falls onto the shoulders of his progeny. During the time of Haman, Mordechai and Esther, descendants of King Shaul, were chosen to complete his work. "And who knows if specifically for this moment you have reached royalty?"
This also answers our question. If one generation or several generations earlier the Jews failed the test of faith and partook of the feast of Ahashverosh, then the responsibility of correcting this error falls onto their children's shoulders. The children, too, were included in the decree. They were assembled in the Bet Midrash of Mordechai, they prayed together with him, and they learned Torah from his mouth. Their cries penetrated the heavens together with their pure, innocent faith. The sin was corrected and the decree was annulled.
It is understandable, then, why the children are such a focal point on Purim. They are our future and hope, and through them the mistakes and errors of past generations will be corrected.
This message relates ever so strongly to us, in our generation. Past generations have faltered and stumbled. They have detached themselves from the chain of our heritage, and who knows how the prosecution against us in the heavenly court works against us. Our teshuvah must involve the commitment to instill pure Torah education within our youth, by increasing our Torah youth programs and enrolling our children in Torah institutions, so that the next generation will restore the glory of Torah to its rightful place. ASKING AND EXPOUNDING
Based on the Rulings of Rav Ovadia Yossef shlit"a
Arranged by Rav Moshe Yossef shlit"a
The Laws of the Reading of the Megilah and the Half-Shekel
1) A person is obligated to read the Megilah both at night as well as Purim day. The nighttime reading may be done throughout the night until daybreak, and the daytime reading may be done throughout the day, from sunrise to sunset. 2) Both men and women are obligated in the reading of the Megilah. Children should be educated by coming to hear the reading even though they are not obligated to do so. One who reads the Megilah for women recites the berachot just like the one who reads in the synagogue.
3) A minor may not fulfill the obligation for adults by reading for them. Furthermore, the "gabbai" in the synagogue is responsible for ensuring that the children who make noise when Haman's name is recited do not undermine the sanctity of the Bet Kenesset or disturb others form hearing every word of the Megilah, which is necessary for the fulfillment of the misvah.
4) It is forbidden to eat prior to Megilah reading, regarding both the nighttime and daytime readings. Therefore, women who do not attend the synagogue should make sure not to eat until their husbands come home and read the Megilah for them. However, one may eat some fruit or less than a "kebeissah" of cake and drink tea or coffee prior to the reading. Nevertheless, one who is stringent in this regard and does not eat anything will be deserving of blessing.
5) Some communities have the custom to collect a commemorative "half-shekel" prior to Megilah reading, so that anyone who did not contribute to the fund before Purim will contribute before Megilah reading. One should be careful not to refer to this donation as "Mahassit Hashekel" (half-shekel), rather, "Zecher leMahassit Hashekel," only a commemoration of the misvah of half-shekel which was obligatory during the time of the Bet Hamikdash. One must give an amount equivalent to the value of nine grams of silver(which today equals about ten shekalim in Israel). Preferably, one should give three metal coins to recall the fact that in the discussion of this misvah in Parashat Ki Tisa the Torah employs the term, "terumah laHashem" (a donation to God) three times. Women, too, should give mahassit hashekel. Although generally only those of twenty years of age and older are obligated in this misvah, some authorities rule that anybody over the age of bar misvah should give, and one should preferably follow that view. Furthermore, it is preferable to give on behalf of one's small children, as well.
The revenue from this fund should be allocated for Torah institutions and yeshivot which produce Torah scholars for, as we are told, once the Bet Hamikdash was destroyed Hashem resides within the study of halachah.
6) One should wear Yom Tov clothing on Purim night, and "al hanisim" is inserted in Amidah, even though the Megilah has not been read.
THE GOLDEN COLUMN
The Hid"a zs"l
On Monday, 11 Adar, we will commemorate the anniversary of the passing of the Hid"a zs"l, Rabbi Hayim Yosef David Azulai. He was a brilliant scholar of both the revealed and hidden areas of Torah, and he amassed a comprehensive knowledge of all realms of Torah scholarship - Talmud, halachah, Midrash, and Kabbalah. He was like a fountain, continuously rising in his Torah knowledge, and composed dozens of important works in all areas of Torah. His humility and modesty were remarkable, and he was greatly disturbed by the honor which was constantly bestowed upon him as he traveled on behalf of the communities of Hevron and Yerushalayim. Wherever he would go, people would purchase the honor of having the great rabbi stay with them by giving money to the poor of Eress Yisrael. Once, he ate at the home of a certain prominent man and was invited to sleep at a different house. As he arrived in the second house, he remembered that he had left his box of tobacco, which he would smell regularly as did many people in those days, back in the first home. He returned to the first house to retrieve the box. Upon his return to his host his mind was very troubled. He could not sleep all night, and in the morning he asked to assemble the entire community in the synagogue so that he could speak with them. The people gathered in the synagogue wondering what had happened. The Hid"a went to the pulpit and declared emotionally, "My friends, for so long I have complained that you grant me undeserved honor, but you did not believe that I do not deserve the honor. Now I can prove it. Imagine, that out of my desire to smell tobacco I walked all the way back to my first host to retrieve my box which I had forgotten. Woe unto a person whose wants control him - is he any greater than an animal? Therefore, you see clearly how undeserving I am of your honor, and you have been making a mistake. In order that my teshuvah be complete, I publicly take upon myself as a 'neder' never to smell tobacco forever, and Hashem should forgive me!" Needless to say, they paid no attention to his pleas that they stop honoring him, and the inspiring assembly glorified him in their eyes all the more so.
The Hid"a passed away on 11 Adar, 5567, and he is buried on Har Hamenuhot in Yerushalayim.
FROM THE WELLSPRINGS OF THE PARASHAH
"It shall be when Hashem allows you to rest from all your enemies"
During the period of Yehoshua, the time was not yet right for the destruction of Amalek, and only Shaul was instructed to complete this mission. He did not complete his task fully, and King David, who ruled after Shaul, appointed Yoav to once and for all complete the job. Yoav spent six months in Edom but, unfortunately, he killed only the males. He made this mistake because when he was still a schoolchild, his teacher had erroneously read the pasuk, "Timheh et ZECHAR Amalek" - "Eradicate the males of Amalek" - instead of "ZECHER Amalek" - "...the memory of Amalek." The author of "Bechor Yaakov" zs"l notes that this, too, is alluded to in the Torah, as the first letters of the first words of the pasuk, "It shall be when Hashem allows you to rest from all you enemies around you, eradicate the memory of Amalek" spell, "Yoav."
"On the way as you left Egypt"
Rabbi Hayim Meshash zs"l of Mekans, in his work, "Nishmat Hayim," asks, why is the entire section about the misvah to eradicate the memory of Amalek written in singular form with the exception of this phrase - "Baderech be'setchem mimisrayim" - "On the way as you left Egypt" - which is written in the plural form? He explains that the Torah stresses that when Benei Yisrael arrived at Har Sinai to receive the Torah, immediately after their battle with Amalek, they encamped like a single person, with a single heart. The implication is that prior to their encampment they were divided, they were not united. Therefore, this phrase is written in the plural, emphasizing that Amalek can successfully launch a campaign against us only when we are not together. Esther's instructions to Mordechai, "Go, gather all the Jews together" is the guarantee for our victory over Amalek.
"Do not forget"
Why does the Torah command us, "Do not forget" specifically with regard to this misvah, that of the eradication of Amalek? Rabbi Mekikass Sheli zs"l, of the great leaders of Djerba, explains that Yehoshua fought against Amalek before the time for Amalek's extinction had arrived. Therefore, he was successful only in weakening them. The Torah therefore commanded that later in history Benei Yisrael would have to eradicate Amalek completely. It stresses, therefore, "Lo tishkah" (Do not forget), since the letters of "tishkah" may be read, "tash koah," weakness, implying that we should not be content with the weakening of Amalek, and with the effects of Yehoshua's battles against them.
FROM THE WONDERS OF CREATION
In the beginning of the winter, all the newspapers, including the religious ones, warned that a harsh winter was in store for us due to vicissitudes of streams and winds over the Atlantic Ocean. It was predicted that they would cause strong, powerful storms, extreme cold and snows. This year's phenomenon was compared to other such cases in years past and it was expected that the effects this year would be far more harsh than in previous years. It seems that with Hashem's help we passed this winter peacefully and it was no worse than any other. There were storms in America, heavy snows in Europe, but the Kinneret in Israel did not flood its banks, and nothing unusual occurred in Israel this winter. If the scientists disappointed us, this is certainly not the first time. However, the question still needs to be asked, is it at all possible to predict how rainy the season will be? After all, as the Gemara states in the beginning of Masechet Ta'anit, the key to rains lies strictly in the hands of the Al-mighty Himself. Thus, did the religious newspapers act properly by publishing the threatening prediction?
The answer is, yes. In Masechet Shabbat (75) we are taught that all scientific wisdom is alluded to by the Torah, and thus our scholars can foresee ahead of time how rainy the winter will be. When their words are confirmed, the other nations will recognize the great wisdom of the Torah and the Name of Hashem will be publicly sanctified. Thus, it is possible to know ahead of time if the season will be dry or rainy.
But isn't the key to rain in the hands of the Al-mighty and nobody else? Of course, and our discussion poses no contradiction to this principle. The Gemara writes that even when it is decreed that it will rain, the waters can fall over the sea or desert, or they can be lost. Alternatively, they can fall over the areas which need it desperately.
As an Israeli meteorologist once said, we can see the cloud cover approaching our country, we can calculate when it will arrive, we can predict the temperature, and everything - except one thing: will the clouds rain over us, will they unload their waters over the sea, or will they continue to the Kingdom of Jordan.
The Repaid Debt (7)
Flashback: The young Naftali, who, during a game, threw a rock and injured an official, was imprisoned. He was brought for trial in the capital city, but he and his guard got lost on the way during a torrential rainstorm. They found refuge in a Jewish home, and early in the morning Naftali woke up to the sound of his host studying.
Naftali lay silently, his eyes closed, listening intently to the sweet sound of Torah study, to the pleasant melody which he had not heard in so long. Suddenly, he opened his eyes and cried in a whisper, "No! No!"
The host lifted his eyes from the large book which he was reading and said calmly, "You must have dreamt a bad dream. Go back to sleep." "No," whispered Naftali passionately, "My dear host has made a mistake in the understanding of the 'sugya'!" "Really," he responded, "what mistake?" "I cannot say," answered Naftali, "as I have not yet washed my hands or recited birkat haTorah."
The host immediately got up and brought a bowl of water for Naftali. The sound of the splashing water did not disturb the guard who was still sleeping deeply. Not even the banging of the metal chains against each other stirred the guard from his slumber. Naftali got up and approached the table. He recited birkat haTorah and began speaking. He began by learning the sugya according to the way the host had learned it. He cited the Gemara by heart and lead the sugya to a dead end. "Not to mention that this approach to the sugya raises several other problems," he said quietly, so as not to wake up the guard.
The host was astounded. "So, what is the explanation?"
Naftali offered his explanation and the sugya was developed beautifully, as everything fell into place. The host's eyes sparkled. "Already from the outset I had planned to keep you here," he said, "but now - my decision is final. A Torah scholar has come into my quarters, and the Gemara says that after a talmid hacham comes blessing! Now, quickly go lie down so that the guard does not see us conversing in a foreign language. He will think we are planning something and his suspicion will be aroused. I want him to think that I am on his side. That is why I told him to lock you in the chains."
to be continued...
Sing You Righteous...
by: Rabbi Avigdor Miller shlit"a
Shabbat and Love of Israel (part II)
Aaron: From where do you derive that the love of Israel is a form of love of G-d?
mr. goodfriend: When Pharaoh's host was drownedd in the sea, Moses and Israel sang: "In the greatness of Your majesty You overthrew those that rose up against You" (Shemot 15:7). Pharaoh dod not rise up against the Creator, but against Israel. Yet, this is declared as an uprising against G-d, "for whoever rises up against Israel is considered as if he rose up against the Holy One" (Mechilta, ibid.).
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